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Issues specific to Corrections Officers

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  • Issues specific to Corrections Officers

    I read this a while ago, its a pretty good read, take a look

    http://www.heavybadge.com/correct.htm

    * Corrections work is isolating. Isolating from the public, from family, at times even from co-workers.
    * It's lonely.
    * It's boring, execpt for the moments of unexpected terror.

    An officer who is well liked and respected by his peers comes back to his post from a meal break. It's 0100 hours on what seems to be a routine 2300 - 0700 shift. But for him it's a restless night and he knows the time will drag. He remembers the day an administrator told him he was going to go places in the department. As quickly as the promise of his big chance came it vanished. Politics, idle talk, not going along with certain protocol, and not knowing who the players are. In the green lined darkness of a midnight shift that leads to nowhere, he contemplates his situation, his future. It's then the tiredness overwhelms him and he begins to sweat and shake without understanding why.

    Tonight time is his enemy as he ponders his future, wondering why he 's no longer excited about the job or the people he works side by side with. He's second guessing his motives for taking this as his chosen career. Counting the years to his retirement, he wonders if he's become as cold a person as he now feels. He's at the point where he feels he too old to play the game anymore. He feels the promises of labor and management are just empty hype. It's somebody else's pipe dream or power play that he can no longer bring himself to be part of. Sitting back in his chair he leans back so his head touches the cold steel wall and he stares over the bodies of inmates who seem to have a peace of mind he envies.

    His feelings seem very clear to him, but with a flaw, he firmly believes that there is no one he has that he can confide in, that no one would understand, not even his wife. She might even criticize him or worse ignore him. He has to be careful around her, on his guard, after all she could have married someone with a 9 to 5 job who could have given her a better life. Frustration sets in. Maybe something will happen tonight so that the adrenaline will kick in. But instead the stress starts taking it's toll.



    * Shiftwork is not normal. It disrupts the body.
    * Shiftwork disrupts the home. It effects the entire family.
    * What and who we work with can change us. We can bring that change home. After seeing so much that is bad in people, can we still see the good?

    She can't get comfortable in any position on the bed. Turning, fluffing up the pillows, and rearranging the covers doesn't help. She has never really adjusted to his night shift. She also knows that she'll be tired tomorrow and wonders how she'll deal with the kids and hold up at work. Exhaustion and loneliness are the only feelings she has right now.

    She worries about him. He's not the same. He doesn't seem to be talking to anyone, not even the kids. He'll sleep most of the day only to get up to eat dinner in silence, then watch TV all night in the bedroom alone and probably fall asleep again. He'll drag himself out of bed to get ready for work again as his family get ready for bed. She feels he is being robbed from her by this job. When she asks him about what's going on, he becomes even more distant.

    On top of all this there's the kids to worry about. They don't know why Daddy is acting the way he does. Why is he always alone in his room with no time for them. Did they do some- thing wrong? Doesn't he want to live with them anymore? Their friends tell them how they've heard how mean C/Os are to people. She wonders if they are beginning to believe them.

    The room is closing in on her. What's happening to her marriage, the excitement's not there anymore. What about the future? Is there any? She feels scared, helpless, useless, and more than a little unloved. She too is counting the years to his retirement so their world can return to normal. Can she wait? Too many questions without answers. She loves him so much it hurts more than she can ever explain to anyone. They just wouldn't understand. Frustration sets in. Stress is taking it's toll.


    * Corrections work IS stressfull
    * It effects all aspects of our lives.
    * But we so often deny emotional realities.
    * Admitting to a problem and seeking help for that problem is viewed as weakness. We often suffer needlessly in silence. We take our family with us.

    This is a scenario that's played out in our families with much too much frequency. We really don't have to read or hear it, because we live. Regardless of what department you work for, your rank or your assignment you know how unfair corrections work can be. We confront the feelings of frustration of our work and the system every time we go on duty.

    We know the difficulties of trying to balance working long hours, rotating shifts, watching the pain and conflict inflected on one another by the inmates. Sometimes it's the paper work that has to be done before going home after sixteen hours. It may be reading the negative feed- back from the public or trying to understand their ignorance of our work. The pressures of being locked up with inmates for eight to sixteen hours a day, five days a week have contributed to the creation of that relentless monster called stress. It's difficult to handle because at times it cannot be seen or even realized.

    In academy training we're encouraged to control and deny any emotions. We're put above any display of feelings. Yet when we conduct ourselves this way we are accused of being cold or following the rules too closely. This puts us in a Catch-22 situation. Our professional stress is frequently compounded with personal stress. Traditionally law enforcement has attracted people who demand perfection. The work is demanding and the way we project ourselves is self-inducing of stress to us and those around us.

    Statistics bear out the magnitude of our exposure to stress by the number of officer deaths, bronchial diseases, suicides and emotional problems. Along with our health and emotional well being at stake the levels of occupational and self-induced stress contribute to the breakdown of relationships between us and our families. Not only does it affect existing relationships it hinders the potential to develop other relationships.

    Studies show that we do not suffer the greatest stress at the time of a critical incident. The greatest sources of stress are experienced in daily frustration from which officers and our families can find no escape. People in general have a distinct stereotypical profile of a correction officer and his family. Our kids must often endure other kids and teachers asking about their mother/father the guard. This has a tendency to make them think that their family is somehow different from their friend's. The impact of this is for us to socialize only with people who are on the job. This causes more stress because of the isolation and not being sociable in the community at large. We've been denied certain vacation picks and had to explain the logic of seniority. Plays, practices, ball games, parent teacher meetings become a one parent affair because we can't get the day off. How does our family adjust to this absenteeism? Do they ever adjust? How do we react to these unfair demands and requirements of correction work?

    Because of situations like these it's common for our relationships to become confusing. It's problematic for us to move in and out of different roles such as officer, spouse, parent and friend. We have to learn how to balance the tough exterior with the soft inner core. One of the hardest things for us to do is to let go when we're off duty because we rely so much on self- control in our work. We're called on in any given situation to see only the black and white of the issue. We strive to be exact in our decisions. You can't bring these qualities in to a relation- ship.

    Sometimes we expect our families to fully understand the stress of our work. We may become distant from our wives and husbands because we think that they don't want to under- stand. This leaves the spouse confused and carrying around a lot of guilt. On the flip side we may seek refuge in the relationship depending fully on the other person, causing them to be overwhelmed by this.

    The more years we work in correctional facilities the harder it is for us to look on the positive side when we deal in mostly the negative. This can lead to a depression that ultimately is going to affect both us and our families. The non-depressed person may not understand this depression or why the things that are changing are doing so. The things that were once fun things become emotional labors. This may cause the spouse or family to need treatment themselves.

    We know it can be difficult to be a correction officer, but it can also be a rewarding experience. We have to learn to understand the stress and be able to identify the signs that we are overloading our systems. You have to develop a mental health plan for yourself just as you would for your physical well being. But always remember that the family is going through a difficult period with you. Don't forget the people you love are also suffering from your stress.

    If you are being affected by stress, you have to realize that there is something real and positive you can do. Some forms of stress can be changed or offset by changing our attitude and lifestyle. More serious forms or conditions such as lasting depression need to addressed with professional intervention and help. We must take the responsibility of being aware that our individual stress and attitude to it is affecting the most significant people in our lives. More and more departments nation wide are responding to the mental health needs of their officers and their families. These departments are taking the necessary steps to help officer's to change the stigma of seeking all and any help available.

    Letting go of the anger rather then feeling like you've lost control of your life, frees you to make the decisions you have to in order to move in a positive way to the quality of life you deserve.

    The wives, husbands and children of correction officers should be aware of the early warning signals that someone in the family is starting to suffer from the overload of correction family stress. Responses to stress can range from verbal arguing to drug abuse. Other indicators may include a family member being pessimistic and not wanting to socialize, having difficulty controlling their temper, and becoming extremely critical of other family members. Additional signs are crankiness, forgetfulness, sleep disturbances, anxiety, weight loss, poor eating habits and a tendency toward accidents. You should take immediate action against serious signs of crisis. Watch for alcohol or drug abuse, excessive crying, extreme signs of guilt and fear, paranoia, a desire for revenge and complete withdrawal. If you or someone in the family is having problems coping with the stress, do something about it. This type of awareness and action helps our families to successfully counter stress.

    This column is to be a forum for correction officers and their families. It's our chance to interact with families and officer's nation wide. I hope in future articles to relate your stories, questions, answers and opinions. I'll try to bring to light any new legislation pending, health and family issues. This is your opportunity to voice your opinions, complaints, stories, jokes, ask questions and find answers. Until next time, Fraternally yours,
    Author- Mark Smith
    "Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure"~ Don Wilder

  • #2
    10-4, I'm glad you posted this article. I've been a C/O for only six years and it has changed me as a person. I have been thru the stress on and off the job. My wife went thru a lot when I first started ,I took all that happened on my 1500 - 2300 shift home. I didn't know how to deal with all the stress and the only people I felt that i could talk to were my classmates who were going thru the same thing. My wife saw the change in me and couldn't understand why, I gave her the silent treatment. After a couple of years I learned to leave everything that happen during my shift at the job. I stop checking the sign-in book after my shift where I use to see where I was posted the next day. I've come to love my job and I don't take anything personal.

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